Make sure to visit the gravesite of Mark Twain at Woodlawn Cemetery! Not sure why it was on my bucket list, other than the fact that he was a wonderful story teller and humorist. I swear I thought I saw Tom Sawyer hiding behind the monument. Of course, I had to leave a penny on his gravesite, for good luck! Members of his family are buried along side of him on the same site.
There are two sides to everyones family! So, my dad’s side of the family has been well documented by my Uncle. Who traced the family way back to pre-revolutionary times in the United States. This side of the family pretty much traces back to Great Britain, Ireland, with a touch of Italian, French, and Scandanavian, etc…. This side of my family were explorers and founders of the State of Kentucky, migrating from North Carolina to settle in West Kentucky to farm its lush landscape. It’s a place I’ve become familiar with because I still have family in the area. Upon tracing the history on Ancestry, I found decorated Revolutionary military, and British Lords and Ladies, and lots of farmers. Not just small time farmers. But 1000 acre farmers. Pretty exciting stuff! Meet my Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather Major John Finley…
My Mom’s side I was a little familiar with, but the tree pretty much stopped as far as history goes, when my Great-Great Grandparents, Gerardus and Wilhemena (Minnie) Vernooy, came across to Ellis Island on a boat from the Netherlands in 1900 with their children.
Curiosity set in! So of course, I went directly to Ancestry.com to get a DNA test kit. My overall result… 55% Western European. This is no surprise, since the Netherlands is located in this area. So I started tracing back this family history.
The Vernooy side was easy to trace, since there are previous Ancestry members who have posted their family trees that match mine. Dutch! Tulips, wooden shoes, the works! My Great Great Grandfather made wooden shoes before he came to the USA. His profession is listed in the census statistics on Ancestry. Landing in Waterford, MI, and eventually Kent County, Michigan my family planted their roots. Good choice! Who doesn’t love the Grand Rapids area?
My maternal grandfather was a bit more difficult history to track… I finally broke through when my DNA results came back, and I was able to find matches of distant cousins throughout the country. I know that my Great Grandparents moved to Michigan from Indiana. Eaton Rapids is where my Grandfather hails from. This side of my family has a long history of Military Service, Blacksmith, and Farming. They also pre-date the USA from pre-revolutionary times, landing in NY in the early 1600’s from Scotland, Great Britain, and yes, the Netherlands. They migrated from Upstate NY, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, until eventually settling in Michigan.
Death Certificates particulary catch my attention in this venture. Causes of Death range anywhere from “Old Age”, to Heart issues, obesity, pneumonia, cancer, etc… Says a lot about my own heath issues! It even gives me incentive on areas that I can work on.
What surprised me most in this process is my new sense of who I am in the big picture. I am redominantly Dutch/Irish/British, with a long family history in the United States. But a visit to the Netherlands has gained a spot on my bucket list!